Notes on Disconnecting

21 May 2019 | Estimated read time about 6 minutes

Categories: (Productivity) (About)

There's a recurring theme that I seem to find everywhere I look. Smart people - people with good ideas - who are stepping away from social media, permanently being connected, and even the internet as a whole.

"That's about the fifth time he has written an introduction paragraph along those very lines, it's something he's been thinking about for some time" - Narrator.

As a reluctant Millennial I'm not one to miss out on a good trend, especially If I catch it early enough 😉.

For the entire month of March I would be travelling a lot - living on a couch - and wouldn't have much in terms of routines in my life.

This nomadic lifestyle has a lot of downsides, great discomfort for example, but also some upside if you know where to look.

One of the benefits of big disruptions is that it's much easier to set or break habits. Transition begets opportunity.

I've been stepping away from the easy target time sinks like Facebook and Instagram since mid-2018, mostly on a "use it only when you need it" basis.

Officially, it all changed to a focused approach on the 1st of March 2019. Big projects need cool names, so I ended up calling mine The March Declaration.

First, some official looking documentation needed to be drafted and signed.

The March Declaration

For the month of March there shall be no usage of any online media that isn't deliberately intended and mindfully consumed.

Furthermore, usage to the following services shall be restricted on a per-device basis as follows

Phone

Ipad

Laptop & PC

Finally, all social media usage combined shall be no more than 1 hour every day.

Signed

Not actually my signature

01/03/2019

Did it work?

Unquestionably yes. Although, at first it was really strange.

I kept catching myself mindlessly pulling out my phone for no apparent reason. Usually this would be when I wanted a quick escape from momentary boredom. The exact behaviour that social media and their gambling addiction mechanics has taught us all.

Bored? Better check x, and y, oh and did you see z?

Now, I had nothing to do with my phone once I had it in my hand. No reason or desire to be here, yet the habit took control time and time again.

Eventually, I found myself checking my email more to fill the void. I could only check an empty email account so many times in a row before I knew I had to stop this behaviour.

I decided to replace the pointless-email-checking loop with reading, something I could see actual value in.

For the first time ever I downloaded "Books" to my phone and found some reading material that would be better suited for grab and go style reading. The Art of War worked really well for this. Tightly condensed wisdom that you can read quickly and mull over, like what we all want Twitter to be.

One Reading Amendment later and before I knew it it was April.

I had made it through the month without any major slip-ups. I felt much less concerned with what was going on on social media and the thought of "missing out" on anything soon faded.

Life continued as normal, friends who are much more active on social media would usually fill me in on all the info I needed to be part of the conversation. Surprisingly this didn't seem to annoy them in the slightest.

Spurred on by this I decided to extend the declaration indefinitely.

I figured the worst case scenario would be that this thread keeps me consistently reading more than I have ever done before. Easy choice.

I had already done all the hard preparation work to get the structure ready and it felt like there was still a lot of unreached potential. I was at the border of possibility.

It's difficult to explain the feeling, it's like I was at the start of something interesting. I just didn't know what it would be or how to get there.

Bring on the boredom

Sometime later I came across the book Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi which give me the last piece I needed to complete the puzzle.

I had too much busy time in my life - the guy with a podcast on productivity - who would have thought.

I decided to schedule at least 30 minutes of real downtime daily.

No reading, no devices, no headphones. Just me and my paper notebook lying in bed letting my mind wander.

Hello ideas, it has been a while

Soon I started generating more ideas daily than I had in months before. Kept awake by a restless mind overflowing with cool stuff I want to write about or work on.

This, I think, has been the potential I felt at the beginning of this process.

It was my thoughts begging to be thought.

No longer am I just thinking what everyone else is thinking. No longer am I stuck rehashing old thoughts and drawing nothing when I want something unique.

What's next

I've learned a lot during this time. Almost all of it unexpected.

When I started this experiment I thought it would end with me being more productive, just not in such a real way. Productivity by means of deliberate idleness.

I've also finally learned the value of letting ideas hang around and mature.

Before, I used to work feverishly on a project to get it out as soon as humanly possible.

I wanted to get it finished so that I can work on the next thing. Usually not even knowing what the next thing is going to be. I just knew I had to be ready.

As a by product this behaviour leads to a string of quick 6/10's instead of a few 8/10's and possibly even that sought after 9/10.

As a person who inherently despises half baked solutions I feel a bit ashamed that it took me this long to see that's exactly what I was doing. Producing more of the same in an attempt not to.

Now, I'm taking more time.

More time to think.

More time to plan.

More time to execute.

More time; what everyone wants but few are crazy enough to find.

Thanks for stopping by.

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